TBR@59 Robertgreaves's Challenge for 2016/17 part 2
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Part 1 can be found here
I have 59 books on the TBR shelves and 72 on the virtual TBR shelves, which means I have one less physical book to read than I did this time last year but 26 more ebooks.
My target for this year is 72 ROOTs. A ROOT is anything on my physical or virtual TBR shelves bought before 01/01/2017. Books count as ROOTs when I start them.
The TBR shelves:
The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough
The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits Volume 3 edited by Mike Ashley
I am an English 59-year-old partnered gay man living in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I work for a local law firm proofreading and correcting documents written by Indonesians in English. I've been doing this for 20 years. I am a member of two book clubs, one online which mainly reads fact and fiction about the Romans, and a real life one which is quite eclectic, taking it in turns to choose a book.
Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to seeing all the great titles you will read this year.
>14 Robertgreaves: My boys hated Judy Blume books! They were assigned and school and it was awful getting them to read them.
The bookclub/ROOTs I'm planning on reading in January 2017:
The Year of the Flood has been sitting on my reader ever since I first bought the reader but I still haven't got round to it. And now it's been so long since I read Oryx and Crake, I need to re-read that first. I do remember I enjoyed it once I figured out what was going on. I read The Handmaid's Tale when it first came out and also enjoyed it, even if I thought it was a bit heavy-handed with the author's message at times.
I picked up Mary Queen of Scots when we visited Holyrood Palace last year, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet (as it's a tad intimidating in size). Hope you enjoy and I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts.
Great book cover collage! Mary Queen of Scots is on my list as well. Actually borrowed it from my mum, so I might end up reading it this year!
Mary Queen of Scots has been sitting on my shelf since the turn of the millennium. It's the sheer size of the thing and thinking about lugging it around to work and back each day.
Good luck meeting your goal. I say that as a person who has fat book tastes and a slim goal. You have a corpulent goal by comparison.
Jakarta? Gathering dust, I'm ashamed to admit, in my TBR pile is Pramoedya Ananta Toer's This Earth of Mankind. Do you know of this writer and have you read anything by him? Otherwise, I have no lit from Indonesian writers.
I've read This Earth of Mankind in Indonesian (Bumi Manusia) and started the second in the quartet but didn't finish it. I have been here in Indonesia for long enough to be able to remember when his books were banned here.
Starting my No. 45, Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser. This brings the TBR shelf down to 57 and is my second ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now because it's been sitting there for far too long and it fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of In the Unlikely Event
In the course of about eight weeks in the winter of 1951/1952 three planes crashed into the town of Elizabeth, near Newark Airport. A group of teenagers and their families live through the tragedies.
The direct effects of the crashes, the people on the planes, those in the way when the planes came down and their reactions was interesting, but the teenage angsty young love, parental disapproval of boyfriends, family break-ups, anorexia etc. left me cold.
Starting my No. 48, Three Books of Known Space by Larry Niven. More light reading as it consists of 2 novels and some short stories, all taking place in Larry Niven's Known Space universe and arranged in chronological order of events. It is my fifth ROOT for 2017 and brings the TBR pile down to 56.
My review of Lord Edgware Dies:
Lady Edgware wants a divorce so she can re-marry. Her husband refuses so she asks Poirot to act as an intermediary. To his surprise, Lord Edgware agrees immediately. But that night Lord Edgware is killed and Lady Edgware is the main suspect.
Lots of twists and turns made this a fun read. I dozed off at one point and felt sure I had found a vital clue in my dreams, but alas it wasn't.
>34 avanders: Although the stories involve the same characters there's no real arc making it a series, so they can be read as stand alones.
Back to Mary Queen of Scots after finishing Three Books of Known Space.
An omnibus of two novels and a collection of short stories, all set in Larry Niven's Known Space universe.
The two novels, "World of Ptavvs" and "A Gift from Earth" were both very enjoyable, but the short stories were a more mixed bunch. The ones that shed further light on incidents or people mentioned in these and other Known Space novels were interesting. The others were a bit 'meh', not bad but not really grabbing my interest.
Starting my No. 49, New Atlantis and The Great Instauration by Francis Bacon. This is my sixth ROOT for 2017 and brings the TBR pile down to 55.
My review of Mary Queen of Scots:
Antonia Fraser's classic biography is divided into three parts, for Mary's time in France, in Scotland, and in England.
For Fraser, Mary was a gentle, charitable soul totally unprepared by her French education and upbringing for the treacherous snakepit she found in Scotland. She made two big mistakes in her life, marrying Darnley and acquiescing to the Babington plot -- though by then after 18 years' imprisonment she was desperate.
Although like everyone I was familiar with the broad outline of her life, this thorough biography placed it all in context giving me at least a much better understanding of the background to Mary's time in France and Scotland. Although she does not indulge in the romanticism of some Marians, nevertheless, I found Fraser's account of Mary's last days and her execution unexpectedly moving.
>38 Robertgreaves: Your review has just prompted me to add Mary QoS to my wishlist.
Going to have to get cracking on Mary Queen of Scots! I am glad to hear it is thorough and provides a good understanding of the background. I'm reading it as background to the Lymond Chronicles.
>38 Robertgreaves: Mary, Queen of Scots is such a great historical persona. I have read her bio in novel form written by Margaret George.
Starting my Nos. 50 and 51, Village School by Miss Read and Thames Valley Tales by Tim Walker. They are both ebooks I've had long enough for them to count as my seventh and eighth ROOTS for 2017.
My review of New Atlantis and The Great Instauration:
Some of Sir Francis Bacon's works. I enjoyed The Great Instauration and the excerpts from Novum Organum, which gave the impression of a great mind at work. The earlier part of New Atlantis was interesting but found myself just skimming the list of research programmes at the House of Salomon. The essays on Religious Unity and the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Empires didn't really grab me either.
Starting my No. 52, Village Diary by Miss Read. This is a new ebook and so does not count as a ROOT. I am reading it as the sequel to Village School. My review:
A rather Cranford-ish account of a school year in a village primary school in the mid-1950s, so about ten years before I was that age. From my memories there must have been a lot of changes in those ten years, though I was living in a small town rather than a village.
Starting my No. 53, Alexander at the World's End by Tom Holt. This is my ninth ROOT for 2017 and brings the TBR pile down to 54.
My review of Village Diary:
In this second in the series, the focus widens out from the schoolchildren to the rest of the village. The narrator's rosy coloured spectacles do get a bit irritating at times but as an elegy for what was then a vanishing way of life and now has probably completely gone these gentle books are very soothing.
>44 Robertgreaves: oh I love seeing it laid out visually like that :)
Looks like you have an interesting month in store!
That does look like an interesting month of reading! I really want to read Longitude.
Loved Longitude! Enjoyed reading what you had to say about Fraser's MQoS. Do you know when it was first published because I feel I read it, but years ago?
IIRC, Asimov wrote a 3-vol. autobio. that I also read and enjoyed years ago. Well written, engaging, and honest. If you're a fan of his and haven't read them, I highly recommend.
In Memory Yet Green is the first, I believe.
Thanks@ Now I feel confident that I did read it. But those were the days when I didn't catalog my reading. So, no record.
Skip most of Asimov's fiction in favor of the 3-vol. autobio. After all, a really interesting real person's story is always better than fiction!
Starting my No. 54, Longitude by Dava Sobel. This is my tenth ROOT for 2017 and brings the TBR pile down to 53. This is a re-read. I forget why I put it on the TBR shelf to re-read it, but it fits CATWoman and RandomCAT.
My review of Alexander At The World's End:
The memoirs of Euxenus son of Eutychides, who is apprenticed to Diogenes the founder of the Cynics and then briefly becomes tutor to the future Alexander the Great.
Not really laugh out loud humour but for the most part it did keep a smile on my face, except for the conflict between the Antolbians and the Scythians, which took up most of the third quarter of the book and which I found rather tedious.
Starting my No. 55, Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov, which is my eleventh ROOT for 2017. It's part of my read through of the stories and novels in Asimov's future history of robots and the galactic empire. I'm reading it now for the SFFKIT.
My review of Longitude:
The story of John Harrison and his invention of the chronometer, a timepiece accurate enough on shipboard to be used for calculating longitude.
Interesting, but scanty on detail. Pictures would have been nice. The Guardian has an article suggesting Maskelyne is not such a villain as Sobel makes him out to be.
Starting my No. 66, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. This is my twelfth ROOT for 2017 and I'm reading it now because it is my RL bookclub's choice for February.
My review of Pebble in the Sky:
Joseph Schwartz, a retired tailor, is mysteriously catapulted to a mysterious world between one step and the next. The mysterious world turns out to be the Earth 50,000 years into the future. He gets caught up in the politics of Earth versus the Galactic Empire and plot and counterplot to cause or stave off a war which will result in the deaths of quadrillions.
It's a cracking good yarn with deliberate echoes of the relations between the Roman Empire and the Jews in Judaea. But the parallels, while close enough for recognition, are not close enough to make the course of the story predictable or to be certain whether there is any deeper message for the early 1950s, when Asimov wrote it.
>55 Jackie_K: I've avoided him so far because it sounded from reviews as if he was going to be sickeningly sentimental, so I'm approaching this with some trepidation.
>57 avanders: Haha, Marmite is *very* British! It's the British equivalent of the Aussie Vegemite, if that helps any. It's basically a yeast spread, and the manufacturers coined an advertising slogan of "you either love it or you hate it", which if you get any Brits together and ask them is true - if any Brit says they aren't fussed either way, you know they're not a true Brit!! (I love it, personally. However, I have a friend who refers to it as "Satan's Earwax").
Starting my No. 67, Rubicon by Tom Holland. This brings the TBR pile down to 51 and is my thirteenth ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now for my online bookclub.
My review of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto:
The life of the musically gifted Fransisco Rubio, aka Frankie Presto, as told by Music.
Mostly a quick, easy read, apart from Part 3 (Frankie at Woodstock), which did drag a bit. I must admit I never really got why Music was telling Frankie's story rather than that of any other accomplished musician, though I did cry at the end of the book, at Aurora's and Frankie's deaths.
I played the Spotify playlist that goes with the book, and although I liked some of the pieces others left me cold. The ones that were supposed to be by Frankie himself were quite catchy, but I really couldn't see what was so special about Django Reinhardt's "Billets Doux", which is made so much of in the book. One song by Hank Williams would have been quite enough.
Starting my No. 68, Some Rain Must Fall and Other Stories by Michel Faber. This is my fourteenth ROOT for 2017. I am reading it now as short stories in and around other books.
My review of Thames Valley Tales:
Vignettes rather than tales, set along the Thames Valley. Interesting, but I have my doubts about the historical background to some of them.
Starting my No. 69, Justinian's Flea by William Rosen. This is an ebook which I've had for long enough for it to be my fifteenth ROOT for 2017. It fits the CultureCAT, RandomCAT and AlphaKIT for this month.
My review of Rubicon:
Tom Holland tells the story of the fall of the Roman Republic. Starting with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon he moves back to cover the events leading up to that point, starting with the brothers Gracchi and then takes the story on to the reign of Augustus.
I didn't think this really added much to the numerous re-tellings of this story in fact and fiction. He could have done with an editor -- some sentences were so convoluted and distorted from normal grammar I had to read them twice to be sure what he was trying to say.
>63 Robertgreaves: some sentences were so convoluted and distorted from normal grammar I had to read them twice to be sure what he was trying to say Ouch. Thank you for this warning, looks like the book can be safely avoided.
A friend has given me two books, a collection of Franz Kafka's short stories, which should be interesting as I've heard a lot about him but never read any, and Fifty Shades of Grey, which I'm not really sure will bring grace to my bookshelves. He also lent me After You by Jojo Moyes, which I'm looking forward to reading fairly soon.
In an atttempt to bring the burgeoning TBR shelves (physical and virtual) (not to mention my burgeoning weight) under control I decided earlier this year that I would only buy books as follows:
1. 2 books as a reward for each kg I lose;
2. next in a series if I am up to date with ROOTs (at a pace of 6 ROOTs per month);
3. bookclub books.
Good luck with those book-buying parameters and with the weight loss! We will be cheering you on so you can buy more books ;)
Starting my no. 70, After You by Jojo Moyes. As somebody lent it to me, it doesn't count as a ROOT.
I have already fallen off the wagon in my book buying plan. I plead in mitigation that it's a book (Claudius by Barbara Levick) that's been on my wishlist for years and 35% off a book that is normally £24.50 (already reduced from £40) is too good a bargain to pass up.
My review of Justinian's Flea by William Rosen:
The great plague of the 6th century AD.
Interesting but not quite what I was expecting. The first half of the book is a quick run through the history of the Roman Empire from Diocletian onwards as a retrospective, slowing down when we reach Justinian himself, halting in 540.
The second half starts off with the bacteriology of the plague and then takes through the plague itself and some of its effects. We then continue with the reign of Justinian and finish off with the effects of the plague not spreading to Arabia and China. In an epilogue, we look at the early Islamic conquests and then indulge in some counterfactual speculation as to what would have happened if there had been no outbreak of plague in the 6th century.
The author is completely unable to see a rabbit hole without going down it (however interesting did we really need an excursus on the architecture of Hagia Sophia?). I enjoyed it but would have liked more about the plague itself, attempts by doctors to deal with it, and people's reactions than we got (about 10 - 20% of the book). But then perhaps there isn't that much evidence. A lot more Justinian than flea despite the title.
Starting my no. 71, Doctor Faustus and Other Plays by Christopher Marlowe. This is my sixteenth ROOT for 2017 and brings the physical TBR shelves to 52.
My review of After You:
The continuing adventures of Lou Clark.
I have to say the introduction of Lily felt a bit forced but once I got over that hurdle I enjoyed it as a quick read. I got a bit teary-eyed at the end, but it didn't have the impact "Me Before You" had.
Books I'm hoping to read as ROOTs and in bookclub during March:
>72 Robertgreaves: I'd be interested in your take on this. I've not read any Radcliffe, but have heard good things about his books. I'm not doing a specific Lent book this year, but I think my planned CultureCAT reads for March and April will give me plenty to muse over.
Starting my No. 73, Amelia Peabody Omnibus by Elizabeth Peters. This ebook is an omnibus edition of 4 novels, but as it doesn't exist as physical omnibus I will count each novel as a ROOT. The first one is my eighteenth ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now for CATWoman and AlphaKIT.
My review of Some Rain Must Fall:
Wonderful collection of short stories, some weird, some funny, some leaving you in suspense, some pleasingly whole just in themselves.
Starting my No. 74, Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. I'm reading it for my real life book club. I've read two out of the four books in the Amelia Peabody Omnibus so that makes it my twentieth ROOT for 2017.
My review of The Crocodile on the Sandbank:
Left unexpectedly rich on his death by her scholarly father, Amelia Peabody decides to travel to Egypt. Having replaced her companion in Rome with Evelyn Barton-Forbes, she takes a cruise down the Nile to El-Amarna where they meet the Emerson brothers, who are Egyptologists excavating there. Unfortunately the expedition is disturbed by a mummy who wanders the site at night.
Written as a stand-alone but later expanded into a series, I found this rather disappointing as I'd heard/read so many good things about the series. I enjoyed Amelia's outlook on life and her repartee with Emerson, but felt the mystery element was a failure since I worked out what was behind the goings-on very early on. Perhaps I've seen too many episodes of Scooby-Doo.
My review of The Curse of the Pharoahs:
Lady Baskerville hires Emerson to continue the dig interrupted by her husband's death, which certain newspapers are playing up as due to a curse from the owner of the tomb Lord Baskerville was excavating. Naturally Peabody comes too to investigate what she is sure was murder.
I felt this one worked better as a mystery with lots of suspects. Although I did wonder about the guilty party from time to time I was sufficiently distracted by red herrings to not be at all sure. And this installment was very, very funny.
>75 Robertgreaves: "Perhaps I've seen too many episodes of Scooby Doo" - that really made me laugh! The books do sound quite fun though.
Having finished Green Mansions, I am going back to start The Mummy Case, the third novel in the Amelia Peabody Omnibus, which will be my twenty-first ROOT for 2017, and Edward II, the last play in Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (which apparently is on YouTube, so I can watch it after I've read it).
My review of "Green Mansions":
Mr. Abel, a socially prominent figure in Georgetown, Guyana, tells his best friend, a recent American? British? Canadian? arrival, the secret of certain events in his life before his own arrival in Georgetown from Venezuela.
I spent the whole book waiting for some big reveal to occur and for the REAL story to get started. It didn't.
Starting the next Amelia Peabody adventure, The Deeds of the Disturber. This is my No. 75 but as a recent ebook purchase, it doesn't count as a ROOT.
My reviews of The Mummy Case and Lion in the Valley (my twenty-second ROOT) from the Amelia Peabody Omnibus.
The Mummy Case
Emerson and Peabody return to Egypt, this time with their son, Ramses. Peabody goes to meet a Cairene antiques dealer who may have some demotic manuscripts, only to find he has been murdered. Who was the mysterious man she saw him with earlier and what is he doing in the labour force on the Emerson-Peabody excavation?
Another very funny episode, though I shall be glad when Ramses learns to talk properly.
Lion in the Valley
Another year, another dig, another body. The Emersons are back in Egypt but it appears the mysterious Sethos is out for revenge.
I don't like criminal masterminds so I do hope this is the last we see of Sethos. But apart from that these mysteries continue to keep me chuckling away.
And I'm pleased to report that I've lost a kg so by my rules I can buy two books. My weight is at its lowest since 7 October last year.
>80 Robertgreaves: oh, well done, great idea! Would follow suit but first have to conquer the nibbling-while-reading habit which is contributing to the kgs gained :/
My No. 76 is the next Amelia Peabody book, The Last Camel Died At Noon. It is a new purchase and so not a ROOT.
My review of The Deeds of the Disturber:
Emerson and Peabody and their family return to England so that Emerson can do some research for his magnum opus in the British Museum. A night watchman is found dead in front of a mummy in the museum from what appears to be a stroke but then one of the Museum Keepers is murdered in front of Cleopatra's Needle. Who is the mysterious sem priest performing rituals in front of the mummy and is he connected with the murder?
A great mystery which certainly had me looking in quite the wrong direction. I could have done without the jealousy subplot though.
Starting my No. 77 The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek, which brings the physical TBR shelves down to 51. This is my twenty-third ROOT for 2017. I am reading it now because it fits the CultureCAT and AlphaKIT.
>73 Jackie_K: My review of What is the Point of Being a Christian?, unchanged from last time I read it:
When Timothy Radcliffe was asked the title question by a friend he replied, "Because it's true," but apparently that wasn't a good enough answer for his friend.
In this book he explores what we mean by saying Christianity is by true in a culture where the idea of truth is losing respect. He moves on to discuss choices we make, personal and social treatment of others, courage, our nature as physical and social beings, and the fault lines between and within Christian denominations.
All in all, a very thought provoking book. Definitely one to keep and read and re-read.
My review of The Last Camel Died At Noon:
The author's explicit homage to H. Rider Haggard has Amelia and family being taken to a lost city surviving from the Cushite period of Ancient Egypt.
Great fun with lots of treachery and twists and turns. But one conversation in the last chapter had so many Victorian oblique euphemisms I'm not sure whether I understood or not.
Starting another book of short stories to read in and around other books, my No. 78, The Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin
My review of The Cross in the Closet
Coming from a conservative American Christian upbringing, Timothy Kurek feels dissatisfied about the way he handled a confrontation with gay protestors at his Christian university and his reaction when a friend is disowned by her family when she comes out as a lesbian. He decides to walk a mile in somebody else's shoes and falsely come out as gay for a year. This is the story of that year.
The first chapter (actually chapter 0) is a bit of a mess, hopping about between different points in the timeline and leaving me very confused despite having heard the basic story elsewhere. Although I persisted it was with much less eager anticipation than when I started.
However, once I got past that chapter, I found the book gripping and emotionally moving. I was stirred by the author's emotional honesty and thought-provoking comments about both communities while seeing the members of the two communities as individuals rather than examples of this or that group.
... I will definitely not be able to "catch up" on threads.. so I'm just dropping in to say Hi!! :)
Starting my No. 80, the second in C. S. Lewis's space trilogy, Perelandra.This is my twenty-fifth ROOT for 2017.
My review of Out of the Silent Planet:
Elwin Ransom is on a walking tour when he is drugged and kidnapped. He wakes up on a spaceship headed for Malacandra, which we know as Mars.
I'm not sure how grounded in contemporary (pre WWII) science this was, but anyway it's more an exploration of theology. What might a planet where there was no Fall be like? And what would be the effect if Fallen man (and it is man, I don't think there were any female characters apart from a brief appearance from a random countrywoman at the beginning on Earth) arrived? Enjoyable, but needs a shifting of mental gears to get into if you're more used to traditional SF.
Starting That Hideous Strength, the third in the trilogy, as my No. 81 and my twenty-sixth ROOT for 2017.
My review of Perelandra:
The eldila send Elwin Ransom on a mission to Perelandra, what we call Venus, to prevent a second Eve from succumbing to temptation and a second Fall.
Starting from the prosaic, we move surely but steadily through the wonders of a new world to the struggle against Professor Weston (the Satan figure) to the mythic splendour of the finale, with lots to ponder on the way.
>95 Robertgreaves: I tried that ages ago and couldn't make sense of it. Your review makes me reconsider it...
Starting my No. 82, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, lent by a very insistent friend, so not a ROOT. However, it does bring the physical TBR shelves down to 50.
My review of That Hideous Strength:
Jane Studdock's nightmares turn out to be true dreams and she may be a key player in a struggle between Earth's evil planetary angel and the heavens.
Although there are places where I winced a bit at Lewis's ideas of the proper relations between the sexes and the big, bad, lesbian Miss Hardcastle, Lewis's writing does give the story a mythic grandeur without being written in faux-medieval style, which is odd considering the medieval world view of Earth and the Heavens it comes from.
I got about halfway through Fifty Shades of Grey when I gave up. There is a good story struggling to get out, but I just couldn't be bothered any more. OTOH if I ever meet a billionaire with exotic tastes who is looking for that special bookish someone who lacks all physical coordination, I might try again.
Replacing it as my No. 82 with This Night's Foul Work by Fred Vargas. This brings the TBR shelves down to 49 and is my twenty-seventh ROOT for 2017.
Starting my No. 83, Antony by Allan Massie. I've had this ebook long enough for it to count as my twenty-eighth ROOT for 2017.
My review of This Night's Foul Work:
Adamsberg's new house is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a murderous 18th century nun. A real life murderer, a nurse Adamsberg put behind bars, has escaped from prison. Two minor thugs for hire in Paris have been murdered. Somebody is shooting stags in Normandy and taking their hearts. Is there a link between these disparate events?
Good enough to do away with regrets that we were not going to hear more about what the murderous nun got up to when she was alive. I wasn't totally convinced by the cat tracking down its beloved human, though.
Starting my No. 85, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. This is my thirtieth ROOT for 2017. I am reading it now for the AlphaKIT and the SFFKIT.
My review of Antony:
Antony's view of events from the assassination of Caesar to his own death as dictated to and with comments by his secretary, Critias.
The first half, dealing with the manoeuvring after the Ides of March down to Philippi was a bit confusing, but the second half, was much better. Critias really didn't like Cleo.
Starting my No. 86, A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.. It is my thirty-first ROOT for 2017. It fits the SFFKIT.
My review of I Am Legend:
Robert Neville is the last man left alive in a world that has been taken over by vampires.
There were some heart-stoppingly exciting scenes and the search for an explanation for the vampirism was interesting, but I did find the psychological explanation for some of the characteristics of vampires unconvincing.
After I finished the book, I watched the film, which was very atmospheric, but I think the book had a much better ending.
Starting my No. 87, One Day by David Nicholls. This brings the physical TBR shelves down to 48 and is my thirty-second ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now for the AwardCAT and AlphaKIT.
My review of A Canticle for Leibowitz (adapted from when I last read it 10 years ago):
Wonderful story of monks preserving civilisation again after an atomic holocaust. A rich reflection on faith and history. With its discussions of euthanasia, evolution, and generally religion v science and why the human race never seems to learn, it's just as timely now as when it was written nearly 60 years ago.
>107 Robertgreaves: Canticle has been on my e-reader for years. Guess it's time to finally read it!
>107 Robertgreaves: I've added that to my wishlist! Your thread is proving a rich source of BBs for me this year!
>98 Robertgreaves: >99 Robertgreaves: !! I don't know why, but I didn't expect to see you reading Fifty Shades... ;) I never read it myself, but based on what I've heard/read, I'm not surprised that you couldn't finish it...
>101 Robertgreaves: looks like a great plan!
>106 Robertgreaves: ohhh, I didn't know there was a different ending.. may have to check out the book now... :)
>110 Robertgreaves: lol ;)
>113 avanders: I never expected to see myself reading Fifty Shades. However, my best friend was so excited about it, lent me his copy, and would not take 'no, not interested' for an answer that I gave way in the end.
Thanks for dropping by, Aletheia. I'm sure baby is taking up much more of your time than you expected, so I appreciate it.
>114 Robertgreaves: lol well that was very nice of you to try it for your best friend! :)
Yeah, he is a handful! but a cute one, so I don't really mind... ;)
But always happy to stop by your thread! You read such interesting books! (and so many of them!)
Starting my No. 88, Titus Andronicus. This is my thirty-third ROOT for 2017. As I've added two books to re-read (How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge and The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester) , the physical TBR shelves now hold 49 books.
My review of One Day:
We drop into the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mowbray on 15 July each year for the 20 years from 1988 to 2007.
It's a clever idea, which started off well, leaving me enjoyably speculating about
what would happen on the 16th. Unfortunately the author couldn't really keep it up and so each chapter started having a lot of exposition as to what had happened in the meantime, which wasn't always well integrated and so made the whole one day a year narrative a bit pointless.
Ultimately, I couldn't really see what Emma saw in Dexter and I came pretty close to giving up several times and it was only because I don't like giving up on books that kept me going. Even the major surprise about 40 pages from the end wasn't enough to salvage the book so it ends up with just a 'meh'.
Hi Robert, just stopping by to see what you were reading in the past months. I was away from LT for a few weeks and now I'm slowly catching up on threads, just skimming through them.
I've got a bad stomach upset and really don't feel up to Titus Andronicus, so my No. 89 is The Killings At Badgers Drift by Caroline Graham. This is my thirty-fourth ROOT for 2017. I am now starting the second in the series, Death of a Hollow Man as my No. 90.
My review of "The Killings At Badgers Drift":
When Miss Bellringer insists to the police that the death of her friend Miss Simpson was not result of a fall at her advanced age, Inspector Barnaby promises to look into it, little guessing at the killing spree that is about to be launched.
This was a quick easy read. Troy is much less likeable than in the TV series.
>119 Robertgreaves: rotten luck, hope it's one of these short-lived things and you bounce back quickly.
>116 Robertgreaves: you've reminded me I've two David Lodge novels lurking in my TBR pile. I loved his campus trilogy - How Far Can You Go made me laugh and squirm at the same time. I must catch up with him again.
>119 Robertgreaves: Get well soon Robert! I don't think I'd fancy Titus Andronicus either with a bad stomach!
>119 Robertgreaves: sorry to hear about your stomach! I can see how Titus Andronicus might not be suitable to feeling ill :-p Hope you feel better quickly!
Touch wood, it was just a 24-hour thing, but it has left me a bit weak and tired and my poor stomach muscles aching. Thank you all for your concern.
We've had nasty bugs going around here as well. Some people have taken up to a week to feel more like themselves. Yuck. Hope you are back to 100% soon!
On to the next in the series, Death in Disguise, which is my 91.
My review of Death of a Hollow Man:
On the first night of an amateur performance of Amadeus, Esslyn Carmichael playing Salieri dies on stage when his razor is tampered with. But by whom? The likely suspects didn't have the opportunity and those who had the opportunity had no reason to kill him.
Even with the cast list at the front, I found the author's habit of sometimes referring to people by their own name and sometimes by the name of the character they were playing very confusing. Troy and Cully are still rather nastier people than they are on TV.
>124 Robertgreaves: glad to hear you're starting to feel better! Hope the weakness and fatigue and achy stomach muscles are feeling better today!
My No. 92 is the next in the series, Written in Blood.
My review of Death in Disguise. (no touchstones today)
While May Cuttle is regressing to a previous life, the head of the spiritual commune where she lives is knifed. Is it connected with the death a month or two earlier of another member of the commune who fell down the stairs and broke his neck? Barnaby and Troy investigate.
This one is my favourite in the series so far, with a manageable list of suspects whose motivation and back stories are more interesting than in the TV episode, which I watched afterwards.
I so love to look at what everyone else is reading. Your choices all look great... and as for Fifty Shades, someone I worked with loaned me her copy, insisting that I read it. It sat on my kitchen counter for 4 months before I finally took pity on it and returned it to her. I just couldn't.
My No. 93 is the next in the series, Faithful Unto Death.
My review of Written In Blood:
After a meeting of the Midsomer Worthy Writer's Circle, the would be writer who hosted the meeting is found stark naked and bludgeoned to death with a candlestick in his bedroom. Was it the guest speaker or one of the regular members?
A good, solid mystery. Rather grittier than the rural England picture postcard TV adaptation, with a process of reasoning the reader can follow rather than the pronouncements the TV audience just has to accept.
So, there is an event on in Jakarta running 24 hours a day for about 10 days called the Big Bad Wolf Sale, selling imported books for about 1/3 of not the Jakarta price but the UK or US price. How could I resist? I got 6 books (7 actually but one was a duplicate).
>133 Robertgreaves: Those are dangerous events. I think you restrained yourself. ;-))
>133 Robertgreaves: it's important to support local entrepreneurial initiatives ;)
Hm, I think you need to make another trip, just to make sure the prices are still the same ;)
>133 Robertgreaves: I agree with all the above supportive messages. Perhaps you should go back and check they're not poisonous. No, hang on, that's chocolate festivals. But the principle's the same.
Starting my No. 95, Journey to Britannia by Bronwen Riley. This is my thirty-fifth ROOT for 2017. I am reading it now for my online bookclub.
My review of Faithful Unto Death:
Simone Hollingsworth is missing. Has she left her husband or has she been kidnapped or even murdered? Barnaby and Troy investigate.
Again a satisfyingly complex mystery which outdoes the TV version, which even here veers quite a bit from the storyline of the book in the final episode of the first series before veering off on its own in the subsequent series.
It becomes more obvious in this story that Causton in the books is in the area where I grew up rather than Midsomer being a county in its own right.
Starting a new book of short stories, Carbo and the Thief and Other Tales of Ancient Rome by Alex Gough. This ebook is my thirty-sixth ROOT for 2017. I've had it for quite a long time as it got lost in the queue of ebooks somehow. It fits this month's AlphaKIT.
Starting my No. 97, Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson. This is another ebook of short stories, and is my thirty-seventh ROOT for 2017.
Also starting my No. 98, The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. I am reading this for my RL book club.
My review of Carbo and the Thief and Other Tales of Ancient Rome:
A small collection of short stories giving the back stories to some of the characters from the author's "Watchmen of Rome" plus a couple of oddments.
Competently done, but not sparkling. It might have helped if I'd already read the novel so as to be already engaged with the characters.
>141 Robertgreaves: I really do enjoy seeing it! Look forward to hearing our thoughts on Mieville's, in particular...
Starting my No. 99, Conundrum by Jan Morris. I am reading this as a supplement to my book club book and it also fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of The Danish Girl:
A novel about the Danish artist Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, who had what may have been the first gender reassignment surgery in 1930, and their relationship with their wife.
I felt mildly cheated by this book on two counts. Firstly, the author admits in an afterword that everyone in the book apart from Einar/Lili is fictional -- even the wife's name and nationality are changed -- and that it should not be read as a biographical novel.
Secondly, even so it is presented as an account of a pioneering trans woman. If she was born with both ovaries and a penis, wouldn't that make her intersex rather than trans? I'm not sure even the question would have made sense to Einar/Lili as they are presented in this book and possibly in real life.
If she was born with both ovaries and a penis, wouldn't that make her intersex rather than trans?
Yes, I would think that made her intersex.
Starting my No. 100, Treachery by S. J. Parris. This is my thirty-eighth ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now for the AlphaKIT.
My review of Conundrum:
Memoir from 1974 of the author's life as James and transition to Jan.
James led what appeared to be a macho and cultured, not to say privileged, life in the Army, and as a foreign correspondent and travel writer, but then transititioned to become Jan. The fluent prose makes it fascinating reading, though I'm not sure how much today's trans activists would agree with her reflections on what it is to be male and female.
Starting my No. 101, the next in the series, Conspiracy, which fits the AlphaKIT but is not a ROOT.
My review of Treachery:
Sir Philip Sydney wants to accompany Sir Francis Drake on his next voyage to raid the Spanish Main, so, accompanied by Giordano Bruno, he goes to visit Sir Francis in Plymouth where the fleet is held up by the death of one of Sir Francis's officers. Was it suicide as it appears or was it murder? If it was murder there are those who had reason to want the victim dead personally or it could even be part of a plot against Drake himself.
This was a well-paced story with plenty of twists and turns despite the lapse into Dan Brown territory.
Good to see you back, Tess.
Starting my No. 102, Aegypt by John Crowley. This is my thirty-ninth ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now because I saw on Wikipedia that Giordano Bruno, the hero of S. J. Parris's books, is also featured in this one. It also fits the AlphaKIT and possibly the SFFKIT, though I can't be sure till I've actually read it.
My review of Conspiracy:
In Paris, Giordano Bruno asks a friend from his university days for help. A few days later the friend is beaten up and before he dies he whispers a cryptic message to Bruno. Bruno must find who the murderer is before the murderer and the people behind the murderer decide he knows too much.
It wasn't as immediately gripping as the previous instalment in the series, but once it got going we had excitement, laughter, and tears enough. I do think Bruno's escape from the slaughterhouse stretched credibility to its limits, though.
Quote of the day:
"That year she walked continually in her life carrying another life, the one inside books, the one that engaged her the more intimately; her living was divided in two, reading and not reading, as completely and necessarily as it was divided into sleeping and being awake."
My review of Aegypt:
Pierce Moffett leaves his job as a history lecturer in New York and meeting up with a former student settles in a small town where he plans to write history from the viewpoint of Renaissance occultists and also to research a local novelist who included Dr Dee and Giordano Bruno in his works.
I had very mixed reactions to this book. There were parts which were intriguing and mind stretching, where I couldn't wait to see how the story would develop and there were lots of rabbitholes to go down and then there were parts where the ornate poeticism just made feel I couldn't take much more and want to give it up.
It did not help matters that I thought this was the complete series in an omnibus but turns out to be just the first volume. I bought the second volume in a burst of optimism but I'm not sure whether I want to continue or start something else.
Starting my No. 103, Love and Sleep, the next in the Aegypt series. As a new ebook, this is not a ROOT.
I had problems with the downloaded copy of Love and Sleep, and thought it might be because I had got a free preview first before downloading it onto my phablet (tablet phone) so I had to check out another previewed book, An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles. This was my No. 105 and as a new ebook, not a ROOT.
Clem Talleyfer keeps a boarding house in Victorian London. One of his lodgers, Rowley Green, leases the shop next door for his taxidermy business. When another lodger, the alcoholic Mr. Lugtrout, is first burgled and then murdered and Rowley's shop is then also burgled, the two friends decide to investigate for their own safety.
A quick, easy read, which is a thoroughly enjoyable mix of the detective, historical, and m/m romance genres. I think some of the sex scenes would have been better served as fade to black. Generalising wildly and of course there are exceptions, I don't think women write good gay sex scenes.
I did manage to download "Love and Sleep" onto my laptop and then sideload it onto my reader, so back to that.
Glad to hear you sorted out the ebook issue! It is most satisfying to devise a workaround when technology isn't doing what you want it to.
Starting my No. 106, Courtesans and Fishcakes by James Davidson. It's my forty-first ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it now because Debra Hamel refers to it a lot in Trying Neaira and it fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of "Trying Neira"
In the late 340s BC a woman was put on trial in Athens for passing herself off as the lawful Athenian wife of an Athenian citizen although she was in fact a foreigner. It was of course part of a political feud between Neaira's Athenian partner and the prosecutor.
Debra Hamel looks at what the prosecution speech tells us and the questions it raises about the position of women and foreigners in Athens, prostitution, legal procedures, and a whole lot more.
>163 Robertgreaves: Love the Wiesel book! Use it in my history class.
Great plans! I really like reading the Aaronovitch series... I think I've read 2 or 3 of them... Which is The Hanging Tree?
Starting my No. 107, A Year of Ravens, a collaborative novel by seven authors. It is my forty-second ROOT for 2017. I am reading it now for my online book club and it also fits the AlphaKIT.
My review of Courtesans and Fishcakes:
Fascinating exploration by James Davidson of Athenian ideas on the bodily pleasures: food, drink, and sex and what over-indulgence in them was thought to say about a man's (and we are mainly talking about the citizen men here because that's what we know about) character in a world with no hard-and-fast rules forbidding pleasures but where how much you indulged yourself was under continuous scrutiny from your peers.
>168 tess_schoolmarm: I promise not to scrutinise your degree of self-indulgence too harshly.
Starting my No. 108, Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon. It's my forty-third ROOT for 2017 and as the first in a series fits the RandomCAT.
My review of A Year of Ravens:
A collaborative novel from seven authors telling the story of Boudicca's revolt against Rome. Each author picks up the baton to move the story forward to form a continuous novel about a group of characters who tell the story of the revolt from different perspectives.
There was only one of the authors whose work I had not come across before, and I have to say he was the weakest link -- the Roman arm clasp was invented in Hollywood and he should have known better than to have included it and there was one transition which was so abrupt I felt sure some sentences had dropped out.
I did have to put the book down and breathe for a while when we got to the atrocities in Londinium but the last battle was moving and had me in tears over the fates of some characters who had been pretty unfavourably portrayed for most of the book.
Starting my No. 109, Death in Byzantium by M. E. Mayer. This is one ebook but the physical version is a box set of 4 novels so I am going to count each novel separately. The first one is called One For Sorrow. It is my forty-fourth ROOT for 2017.
My review of Pane and Suffering:
On the death of her father, Savannah Webb flies home for the funeral and to pass his glass shop on to her father's craftsman, Hugh Trevor. But when she arrives at the shop on the day after the funeral Hugh is found dead. Then she finds a message from her father saying that if the message was found he was murdered. The police dismiss her as hysterical, and so she has to investigate herself.
A very quick and easy read. My second guess dunnit. If it had been my first guess, I wouldn't have continued with the series but as it is I will get the second one even if I don't read it straight away. It was a bit too light and gave me the same feeling as being slumped in front of the TV or flicking through FB for too long.
The second in the box set is Two For Joy. It is my No. 110 and my forty-fifth ROOT for 2017.
John, Lord Chamberlain to the Emperor Justinian, aka John the Eunuch, stumbles across the body of his friend Leukos, the Keeper of the Plate, in an alleyway after a near-riot. Since Leukos still had his purse and some jewellery with him it wasn't a simple mugging, so why was Leukos killed?
A great opening number in this series, it's a dizzying mixture of medieval and Roman and Greek, just as the real Constantinople must have been at this time. It definitely keeps you hooked, turning the pages to find out more about the characters and what is going on. The only downside is a couple of points where some typos slipped through.
On to the third, Three for a Letter. This is my No. 111 and is my forty-sixth ROOT.
My review of Two for Joy:
On a stormy night, three stylites are apparently struck by lightning and burnt to death in fulfilment of a prophecy by Michael, a charismatic preacher camped across the Bosporos from the city. Was it divine judgement or was there a more earthly cause? And how is the Emperor going to deal with Michael as the city descends into chaos?
The mystery was intriguing and a startling revelation about a character from the first book means we won't be seeing that person again. But apart from marking that it is a sequel, I don't see the relevance of the title. There wasn't much joy for anyone, unless surving all the upheavals counts a cause for joy in itself.
The fourth and last in the box set (but not the last in the series) is Four for a Boy. This is my No. 112 and my forty-seventh ROOT.
My review of Three for a Letter:
John's friend Anatolius's uncle Zeno is putting on a staging of the story of Jonah at his country estate to entertain the empress Theodora. When one of the special effects doesn't work properly, the mangled body of a young royal guest (i.e., hostage) is found inside the whale. At the same time, Theodora's favourite dwarf performer, who was playing Jonah, goes missing. Unfortunate accidents or foul play? The empress orders John to investigate.
Lots of satisfying twists and turns in this one. I'm glad to say that three chapters later John came to the same conclusion I had. Unfortunately we were both wrong. Still fascinating is the interplay between triumphant Christianity and the remnants of paganism and Mithraism, and the consciousness of still being part of what we think of as Classical antiquity.
Continuing with the next in the series, Five for Silver. This is my No. 113, but as a new ebook, is not a ROOT.
My review of Four for a Boy:
Flashback/prequel in which John remembers his first case for Justinian 15 years before, when he was still a palace slave and Justinian was the heir apparent rather than emperor. Who killed Hypatius in front of the statue of Christ in the old Haghia Sophia which he financed?
The story of how John met Felix, Anatolius, Isis, Darius, and Gaius. Other bit players pass through unrecognised by the characters but recognisable to readers who've read the earlier books. I think it would still work as a good historical mystery for someone who hasn't read the earlier books, though.
Next in the series is Six for Gold. This is my No. 114, but is not a ROOT.
My review of Five for Silver:
The Justinian plague is ravaging Constantinople but it is by no means the only cause of death. When the body of Gregory, a friend of John's servant Peter, is found dead of a stab wound, John agrees to investigate. The investigation is complicated by the fact that Gregory was not at all as he made himself out to be to Peter.
Very atmospheric. The picture of life going on in these terrible circumstances was actually more interesting than the mystery but
So much fun to read a series straight through like that! Looks like they're pretty fast reads, too :)
Starting the next in the series, Seven for a Secret. This is my No. 115, but is not a ROOT.
My review of Six for Gold:
Justinian has learnt that there is an unknown threat to his power in Egypt and uses the excuse of a false accusation that John has murdered a senator to ostensibly exile him to the trouble spot while giving him secret instructions to investigate. John's first clue is a story of sheep committing suicide by slitting their own throats in a barn.
A good mystery but doesn't really live up to that first clue.
Starting my No. 116, The Secret History by Procopius. This is a new-ish ebook and so not a ROOT. I'm reading it now because Procopius is a character in Seven for a Secret, and although I recognise that a lot of the whispered intrigue and scandal in the Byzantine books comes from Procopius, I've never actually read him.
My review of Seven for a Secret:
John is accosted by a woman claiming to be the original of a mosaic portrait in his house. She asks him to meet her the next day but when he arrives at the meeting place, he only finds a corpse with its head bashed in, only recognisable from the tatoo on its wrist. Of course he looks for the murderer, who seems to be involved with a group of disgraced courtiers who may or may not be a threat to the regime.
Lots of twists and turns that certainly left me confused.
I've watched the video on the latest State of the Thing newsletter and downloaded the app. Now I'm going to be forced, FORCED I tell you, to buy books when I go to Perth for a week on Friday so that I can try it out.
>184 Robertgreaves: lol, any excuse, really.... enjoy your trip to Perth, hope you find some gems!
I have the iPhone app - I find it's much quicker to alter the status of a book from TBR to 'currently reading' to 'completed' or whatever other categories you have. I like the barcode scanner - it's of no use for my golden oldies but any new purchases are very quickly added to the catalogue (as shown in the video). And of course you can access it all 'on the move'.
>184 Robertgreaves: lol!
>185 tess_schoolmarm: >186 Jackie_K: and wittier comments than I had are posted, so I'll leave it at that ;)
>187 floremolla: same! And it allowed me to update the cover image of a book easily, when that cover image was not yet available on LT (I.e., uploading a new cover was an easy process). But I really wish they had a more robust app... I know, it takes time & money!
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